Rastafarian man claims Kentucky prison violated his religious rights by cutting off his locs after banning black hairstyles and removing black hair products

An imprisoned man is suing Kentucky prison officials for violating his legal right to religious expression by cutting his locs and getting revenge on him when he complained, according to a lawsuit received by the Atlanta Black Star.

The state Utilization of Religious Land and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act protect the religious freedom of people in jails and jails. The laws also prohibit prison regimes that burden religious practice unless the government “proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has an overriding interest of the state” and “has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.”

On February 23, 2021, then-Warden of Northpoint Training Center Brad Adams wrote a memo requiring everyone in the Restrictive Housing Unit to have “searchable hair.” The people housed in the unit were no longer allowed to have “braids, corn buns”.[sic]Dreadlocks, etc. in her hair,” the memo said.

The memo said anyone in the unit with braids, cornrows, or locs had 30 minutes to remove them. “If the inmate refuses to remove them, the hair will be cut by a video-enabled cell entry team. This is a use of force and must be authorized through the normal process,” it said.

Carlos Thurman, a practicing Rastafarian, was among the inmates when the warden released the memo on March 2, 2021. Rastafarianism follows Samson’s biblical vow, which forbids hair cutting, the lawsuit says. Thurman’s locomotives were then two to three inches long. He filed a complaint against the rule on behalf of himself and others, arguing that it was racially discriminatory and a violation of personal and religious freedom.

Carlos Thurman, a man detained at a Kentucky prison facility, said prison staff violated his religious rights when they forcibly severed his locs. (Photo: YouTube screenshot/Roland S. Martin)

“If a white inmate with long hair down his back gets into an argument with a black inmate with dreads, cornrows or braids, the white inmate may keep his hair,” Thurman wrote in his March 2021 complaint to the prison. But “the black inmate needs to have his hair cut. Where’s the fairness?’

Despite this, the prison forcibly cut Thurman’s hair and transferred him to another facility. Thurman believes the transfer was in response to his opposition to the hair policy. After filing the first complaint, Thurman filed two appeals. The Appeals Committee at one point recommended defining the term “searchable” for staff and prison inmates, court documents show.

In April, then acting warden Mendalyn Cochran said in response to the complaint that staff should be able to search his hair for contraband. Thurman argued in the complaints that the policy violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and “has not shown that trimming braids, cornrows, and dreadlocks are the least restrictive means.”

Thurman also filed a complaint on April 3, 2021 after learning that Murray’s hair care products, a brand made specifically for black hair, were being removed from the prison canteen. The lawsuit alleges Cochran requested that Thurman be transferred from the facility on April 8, a day after she made her decision on his initial complaint.

The lawsuit alleges Thurman was woken up at 1 a.m. on April 30, 2021 and told to pack his things. Thurman said this is the first time he’s heard about the transfer. About seven months earlier, he applied for a transfer to a new facility after being approached to help start a complaints process there as he was a complaints assistant, but this transfer request was reportedly denied.

Before he was moved to another facility, staff cut through Thurman’s locs he had built up over three years over his objections and grievances. Thurman said he ultimately complied because he feared further retaliation.

At no time did prison staff search Thurman’s hair for contraband. Instead, they put his short locos, which were as wide as a #2 pencil, in a pocket and gave them to him. The lawsuit alleges that the prison failed to use the least restrictive means to “satisfy the security interests of the prison” and consequently exceeded its religious protections.

“While my hair was being cut, NTC staff laughed to each other while staring at me. Even after that because my hair looked like it had the dreads cut. That was humiliating, to say the least,” Thurman wrote in a letter to Cookie Crews, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Justice.

After the transfer, Thurman kept filing complaints about politics and the cutting of his hair. Kentucky prison officials have since changed policy, they said. Thurman’s legal team said he filed the lawsuit to ensure no other inmate has to go through what he did. He named seven prison officials in the lawsuit, including Crews and Adams.

Kaili Moss of the ACLU of Kentucky, one of Thurman’s attorneys, told the Atlanta Black Star that while the civil rights group has not sued for racial discrimination, it was “obvious” that the policy was racially motivated.

“I believe that a policy that specifically names braids, cornrows and locs, all culturally black hairstyles, should target black men in much the same way that dress codes and grooming policies and workplaces and schools target black staff and students,” Moss said. “There is definitely a real-world bias against natural hairstyles, rooted in the general ignorance of black hair and also white supremacy. And so I think that bias exists in Mr. Thurman’s case as well.”

Kentucky Department of Justice spokeswoman Katherine Williams told USA Today that the department’s current search policy “applies to all inmates regardless of race or sex” and that the department is still under review. The prison system also uses full-body scanners to look for contraband.

https://atlantablackstar.com/2022/08/03/where-is-the-fairness-rastafarian-man-alleges-kentucky-prison-violated-his-religious-rights-by-cutting-his-locs-after-banning-black-hairstyles-removing-black-hair-products/ Rastafarian man claims Kentucky prison violated his religious rights by cutting off his locs after banning black hairstyles and removing black hair products

James Brien

24ssports is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – admin@24ssports.com. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Related Articles

Back to top button